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Apple Vacations Expands Westward

Apple Vacations, a giant vacation outfit beloved by deal-seekers but unknown to many, is making a big move into California by adding charter-flight vacations to three major airports in the Bay Area and Orange County: San Francisco (SFO), Mineta San José International Airport (SJC), and Orange County's John Wayne Airport (SNA). All the new gateways will sells vacations to Los Cabos, and SFO and SNA will also hit Puerto Vallarta.

It already offered a few packages out of Los Angeles, selling vacations to Cancun and Ixtapa, but that market is also being aggressively expanded to add Los Cabos, Puerto Vallarta, Costa Rica, and Jamaica.

Apple sells charter flight vacations. Like all such packagers, it often books its own airplanes (although sometimes it negotiates deals on group rates on scheduled carriers) and buys bulk resort rooms in sunny destinations, bringing down the overall cost of a vacation significantly. Simply put: Consumers buying an individual hotel room and airfare usually have trouble matching package prices by companies like Apple. And many Americans, particularly in snowbound regions, swear by the ease and affordability of a charter flight beach vacation (which is why competitor Funjet has thrived for years).

Apple Vacations has been operating for going on half a century, well before the Apple of computer domination—more than a decade ago, I visited its Chicago-area headquarters to write a feature series about charter packagers for Budget Travel magazine, and at the time, it was unclear what the future of this sort of vacation seller would be. Yet in the face of competition online, Apple has managed to keep flying. What's more, now it's able to expand from its Midwestern stronghold to the markets of the western U.S. With the additions, it flies out of 23 American cities now.

Are charter vacations back on the rise? I'll be keeping an eye on Apple's fortunes in California to see if they are.